At the heart of NeighborLink is a desire to provide practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love. Although NeighborLink is still open and functioning as usual, we understand this is not the case for most individuals and many businesses. So we asked ourselves a challenging question:
How can we love our neighbors when we can’t even interact with them face-to-face?
The following are five options to consider. Have a creative idea of your own? Share them with us and with your neighbors, too!
1. Dial “N” for “Neighbor”
Let’s face it. All this talk about social distancing has led us to realize a very sad truth: we’ve actually been socially distancing ourselves for far too long. Sure, the computers we carry around in our pockets may have nearly enough technological brainpower to basically self-diagnose ourselves as positive or negative for the coronavirus, but when was the last time we actually used that technology to call a friend or loved one?
If you’ve ventured outdoors, braved the grocery store, watched the news, or even perused social media, you’ve surely noticed a rarely-voiced, yet hard-to-ignore fact: anxiety and fear are currently running rampant in our world, nation, cities, and neighborhoods. Although this may not describe your mindset, you likely know someone who is fighting an uphill battle at this very moment. What if you were to pick up the phone and give five minutes of your time to encourage that friend? An actual voice on the other end of the line can be much more reassuring than a few lines of text followed by a smiley-face emoji.
Or how about this: as volunteer requests continue to pour into NeighborLink, one of the greatest needs we will have is for someone to be present, available to listen, and willing to comfort those in doubt. Many of the neighbors we are privileged to help are isolated and alone, not to mention more susceptible to the dangers posed by COVID-19. Because of this, being a listening ear could be one of the greatest acts of kindness you could provide your neighbor over the coming weeks.
2. Feeling Crafty
Although no one really knows who to attribute the movement to, yarn bombing became a popular trend a number of years ago. Never heard of yarn bombing? It’s basically graffiti art for crafters who prefer to make art by knitting and crocheting. Yarn bombers leave their works of art scattered across cities and can usually be found in the most random of places: hanging in trees, draped across sculptures, encircling mailboxes, decorating stop signs, and just about every other place you could imagine. Some crafters descend on specific neighborhoods with other artists and cover everything in sight with their colorful artwork. Thus, the term “yarn bombing” was born.
As great and unexpected as yarn bombing may be, can you imagine how inspiring it would be to load up on yarn (Amazon Prime delivery to the rescue!) so you can craft meaningful items for others? Sure, you may not be able to hand-deliver them right now, but they could be mailed or stored until a future date. Perhaps your project of kindness could be knitting hats for newborns or crocheting blankets for the homeless. If you sew, you could make plastic-free shopping bags to cut down on waste and hand them out to neighbors a few weeks from now. Or maybe you love making handmade cards. What better way to encourage your neighbors and loved ones than a surprise card in the mail?
3. Sunny Day Stroll
Experts are predicting a decrease in COVID-19 cases as spring fades into early summer. Want to know why?
In case you didn’t know it, the easiest way to get your daily intake of Vitamin D is through the sun itself…or by ingesting fish liver oil. Hopefully, most of us will agree that the former is the preferable option. Therefore, let’s say it together: go outside! While experts are quick to remind us to socially distance ourselves from others, there’s no harm in going outside for a stroll by yourself or with your family. In fact, a walk outdoors will be good for you. More Vitamin D means a boost of immunity.
Here’s a thought: while out on your walk, wouldn’t it be great to get a little more than just Vitamin D for your body? What about a little exercise for your neighboring soul? As you walk, take a look around your neighborhood. See any trash that needs picking up? Or maybe some sticks that could be cleaned off of the sidewalk? (kids love this one) I’m sure you will. Bring a bag or two along and work as you walk. Extra points for the child with the fullest bag by the end of the journey.
As the weather warms up, bring the lawn mower out for a little extra work. Or perhaps you’ll be the person to plant your neighborhood’s first curbside flower bed or community herb garden. Use your imagination here. A more beautiful neighborhood looks great on both you and your neighbors.
4. Share the Love
Although globalization had already taken root when the H1N1 virus circulated the globe in 2009, humanity was not as connected as we are today. Estimates put the number of worldwide deaths from H1N1 at somewhere between 150,000 and 575,000- a far cry from the current number of deaths from COVID-19 (less than 6500 worldwide at the time of this publishing). Arguably, the rise of social media is at least partly responsible for slowing the speed of its transmission and for turning the word “coronavirus” into buzzword almost overnight. As you look back on how quickly your locality initiated certain measures against COVID-19, imagine how difficult that would have been just ten years ago.
As social media has developed, so too have the options presented therein. Users are able to go live via video and interact with the world at large with the push of a button. So while you may not be able to meet your best friends for coffee and scones at the neighborhood coffee shop, you can still jump online and have a face-to-face video chat with your coffee crew.
Taking it one step further, can you think about a particular skillset you may have that’s worth sharing with others? Perhaps it’s your gift of singing or playing guitar. Maybe you’re fantastic with watercolors or oil pastels. Do you have a gift for carpentry or refurbishing old furniture? Have you written some poetry that you’d love to share with others? My wife is an incredible seamstress and loves to crochet. What would it look like if you enabled yourself to jump online and offer that skill as a gift to viewers or as a sort of class that others can join and learn from? Now that’s a wonderful way to utilize social media for the betterment of your online neighbors.
Knowledge is power. Let’s make it viral.
5. Keeping Up With the Census
As you may have heard, 2020 is a census year. Since the U.S. census is held once every ten years, many people forget the sort of impact all of the information collected will have on your specific community in the years to come. Funding for schools, firefighters, highways, public transit, wildlife, and many other programs (to the tune of a few hundred billion dollars) relies on the information collected during this short period of time.
In the past, local libraries have been available to help residents with census questions. With most libraries closing their doors just as the census has gotten underway, we’re now in a classic conundrum. Where do residents turn to for census help? Where will they go if they have questions? In 2020, it will not be your local library.
So what does all of this census talk have to do with loving your neighbor while being stuck at home? It’s very simple: census documentation is now showing up in mailboxes around the country. I got mine yesterday. You may have already gotten yours. One of the simplest acts of neighborly kindness you can perform is to fill out that census packet and send it back in as soon as you can. Easy enough, right? Doing this will ensure that a census employee will not need to visit your home and ask questions about your household in May. Aside from lessening their unnecessary workload, it could also prevent that person from being exposed to the coronavirus or from passing it along to others. This spring, census employees will visit hundreds of houses to collect information not obtained from those unreturned packets. Do you want to be one of the houses they need to visit this time around?